Cumberland Vol. Fire Dept. - Cumberland, OH
444 W. Main Street
Cumberland, OH 43732
Emergency: 9-1-1
or (740) 638-3737

Non-Emergency (740) 638-2601


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Cumberland Vol. Fire Dept. &  E-Squad - the 70's Cumberland Vol. Fire Dept. &  E-Squad - the 80's Cumberland Vol. Fire Dept. & E-Squad - Today
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A Brief History of the
Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department & E-Squad

One night in 1946 a house caught fire on one of the local Cumberland farms.  The Cambridge Fire Department was notified and they began their response across 25 miles of bad road. Cumberland friends and neighbors had to fight the fire with a bucket brigade until they arrived. By the time the fire truck made it to the Cumberland, the house was a total loss.  Through this unfortunate happening, the Mayor of Cumberland realized just how precarious their situation was and asked a young man that had just returned from the Navy, Jim Keyes, to organize a fire department in Cumberland. And so the proud history of this department began.

Jim Keyes gathered 14 or 15 dedicated men and began the creation of a department and the education of firefighting volunteers.  The first equipment was a 250 gallon chemical extinguisher on wheels.  Firefighters referred to it as “the chemical wagon”.   It was an effective fire fighting machine as it was used to extinguish a fire in upper part of the large two story wooden building located at 421 W. Main Street.  It is said that the charred timbers are still in place.

The first fire truck was purchased in 1946; it was a 1 ½ ton Chevrolet truck that was converted by a local machinist to a 750 gallon tanker/pumper. 

The volunteers, who now averaged 16 to 18 members, worked hard to raise funds, including cleaning wells/cisterns, hauling water, holding festivals, plays, raffles, dances, bingo and paper& glass drives. 
The fire engine was housed in the Village Council Garage, located at 402 Mill Street.  In the winter, they paid one of the local residents to keep the coal furnace fired so that the water would not freeze in the tank.

A few years after the formation of the Department, it separated from the Village Council and became an independent, incorporated entity.  At the time, it was one of just two incorporated departments in Ohio.

Cumberland Village has several cisterns that were dug during the Civil War to store water for fire fighting.  The fire department put pipes into the cisterns and cemented them into place so that they could draft water from them for fire fighting if need be.  In 2009, those pipes can still be seen around town.

In 1957, the Department purchased a 1952 Ford steel hauling truck and installed a 1,054 tank.  The tanker/pumper could move 500 GPM.  They not only “laid their lives on the line” when they responded to fires, several of the firemen put their houses up as security in order to obtain loans for the fire trucks.

By now, the group of volunteers was regularly attending monthly meetings, conducting maintenance and upkeep, and holding practices.  They had fought all kinds of fires, structure, automobile, grass and more.  They had found bodies and saved lives.  Volunteer firemen left the service and others came.  Their role call held steady at 14 -15 members. 

The group worked steadily at fund raising with the support of their spouses, who served in the kitchen, cooking fantastic meals for different occasions.  Children helped also, carrying trays and washing tables and running the multiple errands that always come up when serving a meal. 

They had contracts with Cumberland Village, Spencer Township and Central Ohio Coal to help with their operating funds.  They also had mutual aid contracts with the surrounding townships and counties.
In 1969, a four wheel drive brush truck was purchased and a 250 gallon tank installed along with a pump and hose line. This vehicle proved to be invaluable during grass fires.

In 1970, a new metal building was delivered.  The firemen rolled up their sleeves and began the long hard task of assembling it on a lot they had purchased at 444 E. Main Street.  A siren was put into place behind the fire department.  All of this was accomplished with the labor
of the firemen.  Nothing was “hired out” (except for the septic tank placement); their expertise is what put the building into place.

All of this sounds like it went as smooth as glass.  It wasn’t all that easy.  There were gallons of blood, sweat, tears, and worry.  Some old vehicles were retired.  The firemen continued to put their homes up for security when purchasing fire trucks.  They continued to do their duty, changing plans or losing sleep when climbing out of bed to go fight “the dragon” or to respond to an accident when an alarm was sounded.  Through it all, there was the steady dedication of the fire department members.

On 4/2/80 the first women were voted into the department. They were expected to take fire training just as the men did.  It took years, but eventually, the women were permitted to drive the fire trucks should they want to. 

In 1988, members took and passed an EMT course and a 1978 Ford squad was purchased.  It was the box style and as the years passed, there were times when the interior lights would go out and the air conditioning quit, but it always got us there and back.

We purchased another squad, a 1990 Ford and as it began to age, we had a chance to purchase a newer squad from a nearby town that had dissolved their service, a 1992 Ford.  This squad proved to be a real lemon, but we have always had backup from other area squads when there was a problem.

When we started the squad, we were warned by older, wiser fire people that having a squad would cause problems and bickering between the fire department and the squad people.  Members said that they were determined not let this happen.  So far, we have worked together in tandem.  The squad and department support each other.  There is mutual respect for the work we do, we each face danger, pain, death and sadness, but we do it shoulder to shoulder.  Firemen often show up in their own vehicles and work along with the squad members to help load a patient. 

Our department has a mix of hard working men and women that have made their service a family affair.  Many of the women carry the title fire fighter/EMT or first responder, as do the men.  Whenever there is a fund raiser, husbands, wives and children all show up to help.  As the members of the department age, younger people join and dedicate themselves to the same responsibilities with the same selfless dedication of those who have served before.

There have been times when one of the older children has laid out a piece of carpet in one of the bays and put a movie in the TV/VCR that we have on hand for training purposes and watched several young’uns so that moms and dads could attend to business, whether it be responding to a fire or medical emergency or working a fund raiser.  In this day of both parents working, dad or mom can show up at the fire house with a child or two in tow, so we have adapted.

This department is a vital part of the Village. Other organizations often use the building and kitchen for their own fund raisers.  We have baseball sign-ups and kid’s dances, the fire house is a voting precinct, we have held a Desert Storm rally and honored a Mayor with a party, provided shelter during a flood, held EMT, CPR and fire training classes, baby showers, candle sales, church services, a clinic for flu shots and after funeral dinners all in our department.  At Christmas, Santa arrives in a parade and meets the Village children in one of our bays.  Villagers carry in cookies and punch and everyone visits.  We have an Easter Egg Hunt.  We are part of this community.

We are a rural department; the area we cover is mostly rolling hills; 25 to 35 miles away from the nearest hospital (2 west of us and 1 north of us) and 15 miles away from mutual aid. Those miles mean minutes, when time can mean the difference between living and dying.

There was a time when we went to an accident with pry bars and brute strength.  Next we moved up to a reciprocating saw and a generator to operate it, but this was not enough when minutes counted.  This is why our department concentrated on acquiring a “jaws of life”.  Odds are that in a community this small that is so far from mutual aid, we will know or even be related to a victim in the accidents we respond to and that we needed to have every tool at hand to help a victim; the “jaws of life” is the best we can provide.  This accomplishment was unique because we thought it would take a couple years to earn the extra cash.  In a remarkable exhibit of their support, the public – in our community and in surrounding counties – participated in our campaign and the money was gathered in several short months.  The department tries to have annual training on the jaws of life and we are grateful to have this tool on hand.      

In 2006, the current Co Captains of the Squad announced a goal to acquire a new squad.  Continuing problems with the previously used squads left us no recourse but to purchase a new squad so that we could safely and efficiently transport our patients.  We had more fund raisers and were helped by the Guernsey County Commissioners.  A loan was taken out for the rest.  In 2007 our new Ford Squad was picked up in Indiana and brought home to Cumberland.

It has been our good fortune to have members that know “how to”.  Currently, our department is in the process of building a tanker.  Our siren has broken three times now as old age creeps up on it.  Each time our men have gathered and taken down the 500 + pound siren from the 20 to 30 foot tall tower so that they could have it repaired. 

The Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department has evolved over the years, but the one steadfast commitment the members have always had was their dedication to provide service to the community.  In the last twenty years this department has responded to fires, floods, explosions, blocked roads, accidents, and illness.  They have seen deaths and injuries, loss and sadness and they are still here and still dedicated to the community.

© 2009 - Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department
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